We all want to be effective in our roles as PR professionals. But what dangerous practices, that are common in our industry, should we actively avoid?
I have some suggestions on what the top five items to avoid are. Your top five might be the same, or you might have something to add to the list.
Operate in a Silo
When I was starting out in PR, you could operate in your little PR world. Marketing could do their thing, investor relations could do theirs, and social media hadn’t been invented yet. And the odds were that people would only see one aspect of your company’s outreach efforts.
Today, operating in a silo, without any thought to coordination, can completely destroy your effectiveness and hurt your clients or your company.
Today, people are connected. They see news feeds. They watch YouTube. They see ads on TV, online and in-store. Investor news is on their favorite talk station. Social media permeates every aspect of their lives.
And if you don’t coordinate what you do in PR with every other externally facing communication team or person, you are going to either be ineffective because the consumers can’t hear you over the noise, or you will accidentally cause reputational damage when your message seems to contradict another message that, from the point of view of the consumer, comes from the same company.
Never Pick Up the Phone
We are so reliant on e-mail. It’s fast. It’s convenient. It allows us to reach a huge amount of people with very little effort.
And it’s lazy.
You lose all personal contact with people and you lose your ability to communicate verbally in an effective way. And if you lose those, you lose the value you bring to the table, for both your client and the journalists you work with. As PR professionals we have to be ready to be on camera, or on the record, at a moments notice. And if you live in e-mails, you are not going to be able to do that with the level of professionalism you need to.
Think You Are the Most Important
You are not as important as you think you are. Sorry, but it is true. You are however an important part of an important team. But that team includes PR, marketing, social, advertising, investor relations, crisis communication, sales, customer service and more. If you are not a team player, putting the success of the team ahead of your own personal ambitions, you will not be as effective and impactful as you can be.
Now, I know this is a tough line to walk due to how political some organizations are. There are some organizations where being a team player and not looking out for yourself will result in multiple knives in the back while others crawl over your dying career on their scramble to the top.
But I still fully believe it’s worth it when it works. When all the communication groups work together, focused on supporting the business goals of the company, in a way where the team wins, then the company or the client wins big.
As a side note, this mindset also helps when it comes to brainstorming. Everyone has good ideas. Even the bad ideas can spur good ideas. But if it’s all about you, and you are always looking out for number one, no one is going to share any of his or her ideas with you. If you realize the value of every other team member, and every other peer, and you work hard to incorporate the best ideas that were brought to the table, you will be much more effective than you will ever be on your own.
Keep Doing It the Way We’ve Always Done It
The world changes on a daily basis. How people communicate does so as well. As a PR professional, you need to stay up on these changes, or risk becoming ineffective in your PR efforts. You need to know where journalists are sourcing their stories. You need to know where the conversations about your company are taking place. And you need to know how to effectively engage with those audiences. If you don’t agree, please just head back to your fax machine or dump your entire budget into a print or billboard buy.
Fail to Understand What Journalists Look For
I remember when PR was standing at the aforementioned fax machine, manually sending your news release to your list of news desks, and then following up with a quick phone call. Your news would then be in tomorrow’s paper. That was the 90s. Today, things are very different. And if you don’t understand what a reporter is covering on a regular basis and you blindly pitch them, you are likely to be ignored – on an ongoing basis.
Instead, do a wee bit of research. Find out what they cover. Learn what they are interested in. And, here’s a crazy idea, ask them what they might want to cover in the future. And then figure out how to get them what they are looking for.
What other ways do you see those in our industry destroying their effectiveness? And what would you tell those who are just starting out?